6 Places to Start Your Gift Search

For a lot of people, December brings about a lot of gift anxiety. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I put a lot of pressure on myself to buy gifts for people. Either I know them really well, so I want to make sure the gift is something personal that reflects how well I know them, or I don’t have a close, personal relationship but still want to make a nice gesture without being too weird about it. For some folks, you know exactly what to get them. But more often than not, the holiday season comes around and we’re not sure what to get for our managers, our extended family, our children’s teachers…
And gift exchanges can also be their own can of worms.

Finding the right store to look for a gift can make or break your gift-buying excursion. A lot of very different stores often have a gifts section that is great to look at. If you don’t want to buy something from that section, it might give you a great idea with regards to a gift you can get!

Places that I find myself visiting —online or in-person— even if I don’t buy anything, are:
(Note: I tried to include screenshots that have products for both genders, as some of the gift pages tend to be geared towards female recipients.)

TJ Maxx / Marshall’s / Ross

Discounted department stores are one of my favorite places to start looking for gifts. In December, in particular, they will start keeping lots of easy-to-gift items at the front of the store. It can be easy to get overwhelmed because of the variety, but some items you can look for – depending on the people you are shopping for – include:

  • Fitness, e.g.  yoga mats, foam rollers, water bottles
  • Self-care, e.g. face masks, sleeping masks, hot water bottles for aches and pains
  • Pets!, e.g. the large selection of pet toys that are available
  • Food & drink, e.g. a specialty coffee or snack

This is also a really great stop if you have a budget limit for your gift, like if your white elephant has a $10 cap on it.

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You can start your search online for ideas as well. This is from the new arrivals page on TJMaxx.com


I love browsing ThinkGeek when it comes to my nerdy friends and/or my friends who are really into a particular movie franchise/TV show/video game. Even if I am not familiar with the fandom itself, I can get some inspiration as to what kind of merchandise is available for it and what people are interested in buying. You can get anything from T-shirts and mugs to more specific gifts to the interest. When my friends get really into a video game, or I often discuss shows like Game of Thrones or Doctor Who with them, I go to ThinkGeek and start getting ideas for what kinds of things to get. Even if you don’t think your gift recipient has any super nerdy interests, you might still find something that’s just really cool to receive!

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Here’s a selection of their best-selling gifts

Urban Outfitters

I have never purchased clothing from UO but I love browsing the gifts and non-clothing items they have. They have books, candles, cute kitsch, or Instax cameras, but because the collection is so eclectic, you can also get ideas for gifts to look for elsewhere if nothing specific jumps out at you. Stuff I’ve gotten for gifting include really cute Korean skincare products and a grow-your-own bonsai tree kit! It’s one of my favorite places to browse for gifts and get ideas.

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A selection from the under $12 section of their gifts page


The store is more geared towards women, but their gift section is really cute. This is also a really good place to look if you have a bride-to-be in your life, as they always have some great gifts for brides in the store, as well as the incredible cat-themed section of the gifts table. If you are shopping for someone who really embraces how they fulfill some “basic” stereotypes, you might want to check out Francesca’s.

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A lot of great gifts categorized by interest

Barnes & Noble

Definitely a good place to look for a book lover in your life, but they also have a lot of other things you can look through as well. Not only do they have a lot of craft + skill books (e.g. origami books, recipe books, etc.) that are great for gifting, but they have board games, figurines, puzzles, journals, planners, book accessories, and tables of themed gift-type items! Around this time of year, they are usually Christmas-themed items. One year, I got a cute mug with peppermint hot cocoa mix and a teensy little whisk.

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An interesting mix of gifts that is organized by interest

Drugstores (CVS, RiteAid, Walgreen’s)

The gift aisle of drugstores is king for two types of gifts for sure: mug sets and face/body sets (e.g. lotion + body wash, nail polish sets, etc.) . In recent years, I’ve seen the sets get less generic and more fun! For example, one year, I got Ben a Darth Vader-shaped mug that was filled with Hershey kisses. We were more interested in the mugs, so I ended up getting the rest in the Star Wars collection of head-shaped mugs. They have a lot of different gifts, so you might be surprised by what you can find that is a safe gift for someone you don’t know as intimately, for a white elephant gift exchange, or to donate to a gift drive. It’s also another reliable spot if you’re looking for a gift within a stricter price range.

So the next time you need to buy a gift for someone and have no clue where to start, try checking out of the six spots I mentioned above. I also really like browsing curated gift guides by bloggers and larger websites because they can have a lot of great ideas for gifts as well!

If you’re still having trouble, comment below and tell me what kind of person you’re shopping for or what kind of gift you are looking for and I’ll try to direct you to a place or a gift guide to start you search!

Do you have any go-to places when it comes to buying gifts when you don’t have a specific item in mind?


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